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INTERVIEW: DAMIAN DARLINGTON from BRIT FLOYD – February 2020

| 19 February 2020 | Reply

 

According to a recent press release: “The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall and more… including the iconic song “Echoes,” performed ‘note-for-note’ and in it’s entirety. Brit Floyd, “The World’s Greatest Pink Floyd Show” returns to the stage in 2020 to perform its brand new production, Echoes 2020. Including highlights from The Wall, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Division Bell, and featuring a show stopping 23-minute ‘note-for-note’ performance of the iconic era defining song “Echoes,” written 50 years ago, and from Pink Floyd’s breakthrough 1971 album Meddle.” We were able to grab some phone time with director / guitarist / vocalist Damian Darlington to discuss touring, music, and more…

Photo Credit: Todd Jolicoeur / Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: Damian, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to accommodate being able to talk a little bit about the new tour coming up for Brit Floyd.

Damian: Okay, let’s go for it.

Toddstar: It’s a big year for you guys – the Echoes 2020 World Tour. You guys are taking on something pretty defining on this tour. You are going to play “Echoes” note-for-note, the whole 23 minutes. Quite an undertaking.

Damian: Yeah, it’s the longest track Pink Floyd ever composed, the whole second side of the Meddle album, of course. And pretty much the moment people regard that they defined their sound, and what was to come with Dark Side Of The Moon, and later with that track in particular.

Toddstar: What is it about that track that made you decide, at this point in the game, time to build a tour and a set around this song?

Damian: Well we have played it in the past, but not in some years. It was about five years ago was the last time we were playing it, so it was certainly time to bring it back into the set again. We do very much try and change things up every year. Even though we tour every year, we try and make the set as different as we possibly can, and it just sort of felt it was the right time to give “Echoes” an airing again. Last year we were touring The Wall, not in its entirety, but we were playing many, many tracks off The Wall in the set. So very, very different feel when you’re doing something a bit early like “Echoes,” and bringing that into the set. But we’re not only doing that, we’re doing plenty of tracks from a wealth of other Pink Floyd albums. And we’re also going to be making a nod towards the 50th anniversary of the Atom Heart Mother album as well, because we eventually included a track from that album too, which is something we’ve never played before. So there’s something very different for people who’ve seen the show in the last few years.

Toddstar: You mentioned that you guys change the set up as much as you can, and I’ve been lucky enough to see the show five of the last six years, mixing it up between shows here in Detroit and in Toledo, Ohio at Huntington Center. You are playing both cities on this tour. What songs, in your mind, are the songs that you guys do so well, and are so close to your heart, that as much as want to change the set up in all those years, you keep them in just because you love playing them that much?

Damian: Well there’s a mixture of feelings about some of the songs in the set. Yes, there are indeed songs that we love so much and we want to play every time, but also we recognize that there are certain songs that a good portion of the audience are going to want and expect to hear as well. Songs like “Comfortably Numb,” and “Wish You Were Here,” “Another Brick In The Wall.” And obviously there’s always going to be something off Dark Side Of The Moon, such as “Time,” and “Great Gig In The Sky,” and “Money.” But outside of that, we do want to change things up as much as we possibly can, and we also want to try and cover a wide variety of Floyd albums, whether it be the early stuff that I’ve already mentioned, off Atom Heart Mother, or A Saucerful Of Secrets, we’ll be covering a track from there. Right through to The Division Bell album, and there’s going to be something from The Final Cut, from the Wish You Were Here album, obviously. And many other albums.

Toddstar: With a band like Pink Floyd, and especially because of this show, you guys replicate the show – not only the music, but the visuals – how often do you get the opportunity during the course of a tour to change up the set list from night to night, if you so feel like it?

Damian: The more technical the show becomes, the bigger the live show, the more video content is introduced into the show, it tends to make it more difficult to change things up, just on a whim, as it were. So once we settle on a set list at the beginning of the tour, and iron out any of the gremlins, make sure everything is working as it should, then we tend to sort of stick closely to that set list. Apart from, you know, there is a few occasions on this tour where we’re playing double nights in certain venues. So we may well change one or two songs for the second night that we’re playing, in some way. But on the whole, we tend to stick to the script, as it were, for the tour.

Toddstar: I mentioned the Toledo date at the end of March, and then you’ve got Detroit a couple days later. Two different types of venues – you’ve got the Music Hall in Detroit and Toledo’s Huntington Center. How differently do you guys approach more of an arena type show than you do something like a Music Hall, something a little smaller?

Damian: Well obviously in the arena settings, we can tend to be able to set the show up to its maximum. The smallest venues, smaller stages, sometimes you have to make little compromises here and there. For example, we have two different sizes of circle available to us, and sometimes you just simply can’t set up the bigger circle in some of the smaller venues. There are all the lights, over and above the circle, that you might cut a couple here and there, just to fit them in that smaller space. But outside of that, we tend to treat the gig the same. We’ll put as much effort, and try and squeeze as much production as we possibly can into any environment that we come across during the course of the tour.

Toddstar: Do you have a personal preference? I know some artists prefer a Music Hall, where you’re a little closer, you can actually see the faces that are watching you perform. Other prefer to have a bigger production on a grander scale on something like the Huntington Center stage.

Damian: There are pluses and minuses with both. Obviously when we put the production together for the show, we want the full thing to be there as much as possible, so that’s the good thing about playing the bigger venues. But there is something appealing to us as performers when it comes to the smaller stages, the more intimate environments, where the audience is closer to you. And also, sometimes when it’s a standing show, which can happen, that can have a whole different atmosphere as well. So there’s attractions in both settings for us as performers, I would say.

Toddstar: You guys are kicking the U.S. tour, the North American tour off, at a place you guys have played and done multiple shows in on tours before, the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh. Are there cities and/or venues across North America that you find really just kind of mesh well with what you’re doing, in recreating the Pink Floyd show?

Damian: Well, when it comes to doing double nights, this particular tour we’re doing more of those than we’ve ever done before. We’re doing, as you’ve already mentioned, for quite some time we’ve done two nights in Pittsburgh. We’re doing two nights in Cincinnati this time, two nights in New York City. Hershey, we’re doing two nights there even, as well. When it comes to the sort of general reception of the show in different parts of the country, it doesn’t really vary that much. Fortunately, it seems to work very well wherever we go in the U.S. There are certain audiences that you come across that I’d describe as having, collectively, a slightly different personality, and you’ll find that within a big country like the U.S., the same as you will when you’re comparing the U.S. to Europe, for example, where you might get a very different atmosphere in some of the countries you play with in Europe. Sometimes it could be quite subtle differences. Fundamentally, fortunately, the show seems to work very well wherever we go.

Toddstar: Again, I’ve seen it year after year, and I come back year after year. I’ve seen some of the same people year after year at the Detroit and Toledo shows. Are you guys getting that same thing, where you’re getting that repeat business, and you’re seeing those same faces year after year?

Damian: Certainly. There’s a significant proportion of the audience that we know are coming back year after year. But also, if you sort of analyze the ticket sales, if you’re in a position to do so, there are new people coming. It’s not all the same people coming back, there are definitely new people discovering us, and enjoying the show, year after year.

Toddstar: You guys have a very tight unit, at least the unit I’ve seen here in the States. What is it about the Brit Floyd show, and the comradery among you, that keeps you guys together as a unit, instead of cycling in a guitarist, or cycling in a different drummer?

Photo Credit: Todd Jolicoeur / Toddstar Photography

Damian: Well, when you’re looking for musicians to do this, obviously it’s important that they’re the right fit as a musician, that they have the right talents, the right sort of sensitivity to the music. But it’s also important that they have the right personality, that we’re going to sort of gel and get on, on the road. Because we do so many concerts, tour for such a large amount of the year, that it’s important that we all get on as individuals. So obviously that helps keep people together as a unit, as a bunch of musicians who play successfully, and enjoy playing together, enjoy spending time on the road. So for whatever reason, we’ve hit on the right group of people that Brit Floyd consists of.

Toddstar: You talk about enjoying playing the music. What is the one or two songs in the set that you still get excited to play, Damian? I know you love Pink Floyd or you wouldn’t be doing this. But what are the couple songs that still get you really excited when you know they’re coming up in the set?

Damian: I think “Comfortably Numb” never gets old, as it were. It’s always exciting to play that. I enjoy singing it, as a singer, and of course I particularly enjoy getting to play that epic guitar solo at the end of it. I would say it’s one of the best rock guitar solos of all time, and I get to play it night after night, and more often than David Gilmour ever did. There are obviously a few other moments. But it’s exciting when you’re doing a new set list and there’s something brand new in the set, or something you haven’t played in a number of years, as well. That will obviously be exciting this time around for us, doing something like “Echoes,” which we haven’t played since 2016 I think it was.

Toddstar: You gave me a segue into the next question. What are the songs that you absolutely love, and you think are viable to play live, that you still have yet to be able to add to the live set?

Damian: To be honest, there’s not many. We’ve done a huge proportion of the Pink Floyd catalog now. There’s one or two songs off The Final Cut I would quite like to do at some point, because that album has a special resonance with me. It was the first Pink Floyd album I heard when I was a teenager that was a new release. I’d discovered Pink Floyd, but that was a brand new album that came out shortly after I discovered Pink Floyd. So I definitely enjoy playing tracks off there. But you know, we’ve done everything off Dark Side, everything off Wish You Were Here, The Wall, The Division Bell, Momentary Lapse of Reason. It’s only when you go back to the older stuff, there’s some holes in the catalog. And quite frankly, there’s probably some songs that just kind of don’t work live. When you think of something like “Several Species…”, you’d never do that live, for example. But we’ve done a good sort of 80% of Pink Floyd’s catalog at this stage, I would say.

Toddstar: You’ve been at this a little over nine years, if memory serves, I think you guys kind of kicked this off in the beginning of 2011, back in Liverpool.

Damian: Yep, that was the first show.

Toddstar: Did you think for a minute when you started this off that you’d be doing this in 2020, and touring the world, doing what you love, playing the music you love?

Damian: Well, in all honesty, yes I did, because I’d already been doing it with another Pink Floyd band for 17 years. So the concept of doing it for this long had already been well established, and I was already touring around Europe and the U.S. in the previous Pink Floyd band I was with. So there was definitely sort of a template had already been established. But you’re not complacent about it, you don’t take it for granted. I wasn’t absolutely certain Brit Floyd would be successful, and I wasn’t absolutely certain that we’d be touring at the level that we are doing now. So I’m pleasantly pleased and surprised that it has gotten to the level it has, after a decade has gone by. And it’s not slowing down, there seems to be every prospect of it building even further, and going to other places in the world. We’re about to go to Japan, for example, for the very first time, which is something we’ve never done. We’ve never played there, or anywhere in Asia. So there’s certainly room for it to grow and expand around the world.

Photo Credit: Todd Jolicoeur / Toddstar Photography

Toddstar: I think you’re hitting Japan at the end of February, the next week or so, just before you start the tour up here in the U.S.

Damian: Yeah, we’re flying there this Sunday, so it’s imminent for that. And we go straight from Japan to Pittsburgh, where we’ll start the first concerts of the U.S. tour.

Toddstar: Damian, you’ve played so many huge halls with Brit Floyd, and then obviously with your previous endeavors, but what was the one venue you’ve played in across the world, and again, I’ll throw names out there like Royal Albert Hall, you’ve played The Greek, you’ve played Radio City Music. What’s the one venue where you kind of pinched yourself, you couldn’t believe you were actually going to be on that stage?

Damian: I mean, you’ve kind of mentioned them. I suppose I can add a couple to that. Obviously Red Rocks is a big venue for us, it’s certainly an iconic venue, and we’ve played it every year now since 2012. So I pinch myself when I go out there on stage and see ten thousand people every time we play there. I’m amazed, wow, they’re still coming back, and there’s so many of them. I mean I suppose another particularly iconic but strange place to find yourself playing was the Kremlin in Russia, which we did once in Moscow. There’s a theater within the Kremlin grounds, which we did a few years back. So that was certainly somewhere I never expected to be doing a concert.

Toddstar: That would be amazing in my mind, that show alone. Looking back, what was the one Pink Floyd song, or album, or moment, that you can remember, that you still go back to when you need that inspiration to keep this going?

Damian: Well my introduction to Pink Floyd was The Wall album. That was the first one I heard, and that was my gateway into Pink Floyd. I mean, I very quickly on the heels of that, got to hear Dark Side Of The Moon, and Wish You Were Here, Animals. They’re the ones, they’re the core albums, that they… There’s wonderful music earlier than that, there’s wonderful music after those albums. But I think they are what set the benchmark for Pink Floyd at that period, during the 70’s, Dark Side through to The Wall. And so I go back to listen to those albums, and I can still listen to them as a fan. I can sort of take my Pink Floyd tribute-playing hat off, and just listen to them as a fan still.

Toddstar: That leads me to my next question – how hard is it to separate the two?

Damian: I mean, it’s difficult. It’s inevitable that you find yourself analyzing it rather than just simply enjoying it. Fortunately, I can still just about separate the two.

Toddstar: Damian, I appreciate the time. I know you’re busy, and I can’t wait to see you once again. We wish you well when you kick this thing off in Pittsburgh, and can’t wait to see you in Toledo and Detroit when you bring it through.

Damian: Okay. Well we are very much looking forward to the whole U.S. tour once again. And it’s been great talking to you, thank you very much.

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Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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